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Yesterday, October 1st marked World Vegetarian Day.  I love this event because it gives me an opportunity to reflect on how I became vegan and the reasons why I continue to live this lifestyle.

I think it’s crucial to note here that veganism is not about superiority, intimidation or bullying.  As vegans, while it’s important for us to stand up for what we believe in, it’s equally important to do so in a way that is kind, caring and with good intention.  We need to create gateways instead of putting up walls.

It’s essential for me to live a life of compassion for all beings.  Colleen Patrick-Goudreau perhaps puts it best, “being vegan is about saying yes to my values of compassion and wellness.  It’s pretty amazing to wake up every morning knowing that every decision I make is to cause as little harm as possible.”

With that in mind, I created a beautiful curry dish.  What started out as a random assortment of ingredients, turned into a warm, comforting meal. 

Coconut Compassion Curry

Ingredients

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp ginger, chopped
1 tbsp curry seasoning (I use Arvinda’s Curry Masala)
1 tsp garam masala (I use Arvinda’s Garam Masala)
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 can tomato paste
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 15oz can of Adzuki beans
1 cup firm tofu, cubed (I use Wildwood Organics Sprouted Tofu)
pinch of sea salt
2 cups butternut squash, cubed and steamed
2 cups sweet potato, cubed and steamed

Directions

1. Heat coconut oil on low-medium and add onion.  Cook until slightly translucent.

2. Add ginger and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

3. Add curry seasoning and garam, masala, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

4. Add coconut milk, tomato paste and diced tomatoes.  Increase temperature to medium and bring to a gentle boil.

5. Let boil for 3-5 minutes, stirring often.  Reduce heat to low-medium and add adzuki beans and tofu.  Season with a pinch of sea salt.

6. Simmer for 30 minutes, continuing to stir often.

7. While curry sauce is simmering.  Steam butternut squash and sweet potato.  (I have a steamer and it took about 12-14 minutes for each root vegetable to become tender)

8. Once butternut squash and sweet potato are steamed, add into curry sauce and stir.

9. Serve over brown rice and red lentils (a complete protein!) or quinoa.

Note – to enhance digestibility and decrease cooking time, soak grains and pseudo-grains over night.  This helps to break down the phytic acid which reduces the bioavailability of many minerals.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.-Dalai Lama”

Man I love stir fries.  They are a fast and easy way to get a whole lot of veggies in a single meal and makes for delicious left overs.

But now being a mostly raw girl, I don’t usually go for stir fries, they always felt a bit too greasy and cooked brown rice is sometimes too heavy for me.

When I found kelp noodles at my local health food store I knew I needed to try making a raw stir fry…a non fry?  Kelp noodles are pretty great, they have this really interestingly chewy, crunchy texture and are gluten-free and grain-free.

Veggie Stir Non-Fry with Kelp Noodles

Ingredients

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 carrots, silvered
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 cup snap peas
2 tbsp sesame oil
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 package of kelp noodles

Directions

1. Slice shiitake mushrooms and onions.  Place in bowl with Bragg Liquid Aminos and let marinate for 15 mins.
2. Drain and rinse kelp noodles and set aside.
3. Cut up carrots, bell pepper and snap peas.  
4. Combine shiitake mushrooms and onion mix, mixed veggies, sesame oil, crushed red pepper flakes and kelp noodles into a bowl.
5. Mix and serve.

I spent the weekend at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair aka Vegan Christmas.  It was perhaps one of the best few days I have ever had, between visiting some of my favourite people and sampling delicious treats, it was just what I needed to remind me of why I do what I do and live the life I lead.

The weekend started with me working with some amazing ladies and brands; Two Girls Cooking

and Girlnola

I sipped on coconut water and enjoyed a beautiful Sunday afternoon with one of my besties and fellow Holistic Nutritionist, Miranda:

We caught Lisa and Nicole’s raw vegan ice cream demo.  These ladies made three gorgeous blizzard style soft serves; strawberry cheesecake (recipe below), cookie dough and chocolate mint:

And I picked up some sweet swag from some of my favourite brands including; Two Girls Cooking, Girlnola, Marni Wasserman, Kindfood and Shasha Co.

What a fantastic time!  Seeing all my amazing friends renewed my spirit and joy for veganism, health, and a compassionate lifestyle.

Strawberry Cheesecake Blizzard
recipe by Lisa Pitman and Nicole Axworthy

Ingredients

Strawberry Swirl
1 cup strawberries, hulled
1 tsp lemon zest
2 large Medjool dates, pitted
2 ts[ coconut oil

Crust
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw pecans
pinch of sea salt
4 large Medjool dates, pitted

Soft Serve
2 bananas, peeled and frozen
1 tsp lemon juice

Directions

Strawberry Swirl
1. In a food processor, combine the strawberries, zest and dates.  Process until smooth
2. Add coconut oil and process until well combined
3. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes

Crust
1. In a food processor, pulse the almonds, pecans and sea salt into a fine meal. 
2. Add the dates and pulse until well combined

Soft Serve
1. In a blender or food processor, blend the bananas until a creamy, ice cream consistency is achieved.
2. Add lemon juice and pulse to combine.
3. Divide the soft serve between four bowls.  Add 1/4 cup of strawberry swirl and 2 tbsp of crust.  Swirl the mixture gently with a spoon.

Back in 2004 I travelled to the Andalusia region of Spain.  It is perhaps one of the most friendly and hospitable places in the world. 

I can’t imagine going back now, as a high raw vegan holistic nutrition student as Spain is famous for their Manchego cheese, Jamón ibérico (cured ham), paella and churros and I wouldn’t eat any of that now.  However, there was one dish I was introduced to that I absolutely adored and that was gazpacho.

Gazpacho is light and refreshing chilled soup that has many variations.  It is so simple to make, all you need is a blender!  I have recreated it to suite my needs of being mostly raw and vegan.

 

Gazpacho

Ingredients

1/2 cucumber
4 tomatoes, medium size
1/2 red pepper
1/2 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
pinch of basil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Chop all veg and set aside about 1/4 of cucumber, tomatoes, red pepper and onion

2. Combine all ingredients (with the exception of the vegetables set aside) in a blender and blend until fairly well combined.  Having the soup slightly chunky is ok.

3. Pour into bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4.  Once chilled, garnish with remaining chopped veg and serve.

Makes 2 servings

Note – avocado would be an excellent addition to the soup, unfortunately at the time of recipe creation the avocado on my counter had not yet ripened.

The area of Toronto I live in is referred to as the Entertainment District or Clubland.  Shudder.

On Friday and Saturday night packs of just legal kids from the Suburbs descend on my neighbourhood.  The truth is, only a few years ago I was one of them.

However now that I’m older, wiser and a lot more dull, I spend my Friday nights doing my favourite activity of all…grocery shopping.

I like to get dolled up in my cutest track pants and strut my fine self up to Whole Foods in Yorkville.  Sometimes, while descending down the escalator to the store, I wear my trendy Juicy Couture sunglasses that I bought at a discount store in NYC so that customers and employees will think I am a famous European movie star.  I am not even kidding you.

But I digress.

This particular Friday I found a gorgeous assortment of beans.  I choose the standard green and picked up a cool purple pod pole bean.  And you thought I didn’t know how to have a good time.

I transformed my beans into a gorgeous salad with a tangy honey-mustard vinaigrette dressing.

Bean Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Ingredients

Salad

2 cups beans, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup red kidney beans

Vinaigrette

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp prepared stone ground mustard (look for an organic, sugar-free kind)
2 tsp honey, raw and unpasteurized
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Chop beans and celery and assemble into a salad with red kidney beans

2. Combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette into a bowl and whisk together until combined (makes about 1 cup)

3. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad, refrigerate for a few hours to lets dressing absorb into beans.

Carrot cake is one of my most favourite desserts.  A tall, moist cake with lots of vegan cream cheese icing is like a dream. 

But I swear up and down that just dreaming about carrot cake makes my butt get bigger.  Trying to rationalize that because carrot cake is made with carrots it can count as healthy.  Right?

Nope, sorry.  Ain’t happening.

That’s why these carrot cake balls are just so freakin’ good.  All the deliciousness of a rich carrot cake without all the added and unnecessary crap.

Win!

Raw Carrot Cake Balls

Ingredients

1 cup almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pecans
6 Medjool dates, pitted
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup coconut, shredded and unsweetened
1 tsp coconut oil
2 large carrots, chopped or shredded
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbsp flax seed, ground

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until combined.  Mixture can still be chunky.  Careful not to over-process nuts as these releases too much of the oil.

2. Shape into balls and roll in coconut or cinnamon.

3. Refrigerate for 1 hour and enjoy.

Note – If you want variety, try adding pineapple (fresh or dried) and grated ginger for some kick.  If your mixture is too moist, add additional ground flax seed.

Last night was a hot one here in Toronto.  The kind of night that had I not been a healthy-living vegan, I may have stopped and got a chocolate soft serve cone from one of the numerous ice cream trucks parked in my neighbourhood.

Ever wonder what’s actually used to make soft serve?  The National Post wrote a story on this a few years back.  Ingredients include – corn syrup, whey, calcium sulfate and more sugar then should ever be consumed by the human body.

I whipped up this delicious treat using some frozen Ontario-grown sour cherries I found at Whole Foods.  Try it and I swear you’ll like it better then that crap that’s served out of a truck.

You can even eat it for breakfast.  Not that I’m doing that…right now…

Chocolate-Cherry Soft Serve

Ingredients

1 banana, frozen or unfrozen your choice
1/2 cup frozen sour cherries
1 tbsp raw cacao powder
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1 medjool date

Directions

1. Add all ingredients to high-powered blender or food processor
2. Blend until smooth and transfer to bowl or layer in parfait glass
3. Top with raw cacao nibs and whole cherries

When I became vegan 3 years ago I didn’t know a single soul who also shared my values and beliefs so you can imagine my excitement about spending yesterday afternoon in Trinity Bellwoods surrounded by amazing, like-minded, beautiful vegan friends: Lisa, Steph, Camille, Marlie, Cassandra, Lisa and Ashley

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I look back to 3 years ago and think just how far I’ve come and how many amazing people I have met along the way.  I feel truly blessed to know each of these women and admire their talent and passion.

Each lady brought a dish and we had an amazing potluck picnic in the park.  On the menu was Quinoa Kale salad, Thai Mango salad (recipe below), Hummus and carrots, Watermelon, Dehydrated Grape Leaves, Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, Strawberry Thumbprint cookies, Peanut Butter Thumbprint cookies, Coconut Cacao Date balls and Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes.  So very delicious!

Here’s my recipe for Thai Mango salad, try adding quinoa for a lil’ something extra!

Thai Mango Salad

Ingredients

2 mangoes, julienned
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
handful of parsley, chopped
juice from 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste
cashews or peanuts, crushed to garnish

Directions

1. Prepare and combine mangoes, red pepper, green pepper, green onions, red onion and parsley.
2. Mix lime juice, salt and pepper in separate bowl and pour over veggie mixture.
3. Chill for 1 hour and let marinade.  Garnish with nuts and serve.

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A few weekends ago I attended an amazing event called Reboot Toronto.  Reboot was hosted by Yafa from House of Verona, a beautiful health retreat in Collingwood Ontario.

I started by meeting up for lunch with Ashley.  We have been “blog friends” for quite some time but when we found out we were both attending Reboot we decided to meet up before and have lunch at Butler’s Pantry

The second I sat down Ashley’s bubbly and happy energy hit me like a wave and we immediately hit it off.  Not surprising as we have so much in common.

We headed over the centre and got settled.  The energy was so happy and calm.

Yafa started us off with her story of bipolar depression and how changing her diet to raw and vegan immediately helped her symptoms.  She is such a sweet, compassionate person and I really appreciated that she was so open with her story as depression is a hard thing to talk about, especially in front of an audience.  Yafa also mentioned that the best way to enhance endorphins is through laughter, sex and exercising.  Do what you will with that information!

Next up we participated in a really wonderful yoga class taught by Linda of Iam Yoga.  Followed by a talk from Ben Stone, a very interesting and intelligent Hippocrates Health Educator.  Did you know that 2 oz of wheatgrass = 3 lbs average vegetables nutrient value, pretty awesome right?

And of course, Meghan Telpner who shared her 10 Things She Learned Healing An Incurable Disease

Meghan is incredibly down to earth, funny and passionate.  There were so many points she mentioned that I really liked including “We are better to spend our time happily creating, than creating to be happy.”

Elwin Robinson followed Meghan where he spoke on the importance of energy and how to increase our energy through simple steps such as proper breathing and clean water.

And last but not least the awesome and inspiring Philip McCluskey, a raw vegan who famously lost 215 lbs through raw food.

Overall the event was pretty amazing.  I love being in a room full of other people who share many of my interests, it’s rare that it happens!  It was an emotionally exhausting day but I left with a new friend and feeling inspired and rebooted.

How do you “reboot?”

A large part of a raw vegan diet is consuming sprouts namely because they are delicious, living foods packed full of nutrients.

Typically I buy sprout mixes from my local health food store but after learning that my classmate sprouted her own mung beans, I knew I had to give it a go.  As it turns out, sprouting is super easy and very economical!

Some benefits of sprouts:

Contain active enzymes that help digestion and assimilation
Increases protein content by 15-30%
Starches change to simple sugars
B Vitamins are enhanced

I’ve seen many a fancy sprouter container but you don’t need to buy those.  All you need are beans for sprouting, a glass mason jar and cheesecloth.

Once you have gathered everything, take 1/2 cup of beans and pour into the glass jar.  Fill jar with filtered water, cover it will with a small square of cheesecloth (folded over so there are 4 layers), put the ring on and soak overnight.

Next, drain and rinse your sprouts.  Flip jar back over to let water drain.  Rinse and drain 2-3 x a day for 3-5 days depending on the sprout.  When rinsing, make sure water runs clear.

After 3-5 days you will have sprouts!

Sprouts can be enjoyed with salads, on sandwiches or on their own.  The Hippocrates Health Institute, a leader in Holistic Healing advocates a diet rich in sprouts, about 20% of your daily intake.

Note – seeds of the Nightshade family (ie tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants) should not be sprouted as they are poisonous.  Please use caution when sprouting.

Have you ever tried sprouting?

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